• Breast Cancer Treatment Center

    Program for Young Women with Breast Cancer

    Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Care

    This program focuses on the unique needs of young women (in their early 40s and younger) who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Our specialists offer a range of services to help before, during, and after cancer treatment, including fertility and genetic counseling as well as state-of-the-art patient care.

    About the Program

    A cancer diagnosis is a life-altering experience for most individuals; however, young women facing breast cancer often feel especially alone and overwhelmed. From parenting young children and concerns about future fertility, to managing careers and sustaining relationships, young women struggle to balance their illness with their personal and professional lives.

    Recognizing that young women have unique needs, Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center (DF/BWCC) founded the Program for Young Women with Breast Cancer in 2005, establishing the first program of its kind in New England, and one of the only programs in the U.S. Since its inception, the program has shepherded more than a thousand young women on their journey through and beyond cancer, addressing their needs with comprehensive care and support together with a range of programs tailored specifically for them.

    The treatment team is made up of some of the world's most experienced and respected breast cancer specialists, who focus their care and research specifically on young women with breast cancer. As partners in your treatment, we will help you make informed decisions about your care and help you navigate through your cancer journey.

    Fertility and Reproductive Services

    Since many of our patients would like to have children now or in the future, we ensure that fertility options are addressed at diagnosis, as you are determining your treatment options, and again in your follow-up care plan.

    Genetic Testing

    We know that breast cancer runs in some families, but recent scientific advances have made it possible not only to identify and manage this risk, but also better treat individuals based on their inherited genes.

    Working closely with the Cancer Genetics and Prevention Program, we use the latest and most sophisticated methods to test for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations, and other genetic markers linked to breast cancer. Our multidisciplinary team then works with you to create a personalized treatment plan based on your needs.

    Psychological Support

    A social worker is identified on your first visit for one-on-one counseling sessions throughout your treatment. DF/BWCC also provides access to the following options for young women with breast cancer:

    • Young Women's telephone support group
    • One-to-one peer support program 
    • Young adult support group (special social networking group for young breast cancer patients and survivors)
    • Referral, as needed, to a psychologist or psychiatrist focused specifically on the mental health of patients dealing with cancer

    Breast Cancer Survivorship

    At Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center (DF/BWCC) our breast cancer specialists incorporate survivorship into each patient's overall care, so physicians and nurses in the Breast Oncology Treatment Center start helping patients become familiar with cancer survivorship even before treatment ends. This means ensuring that patients have access to needed survivorship services, such as fertility, sexual health, and weight management. And it means making sure that patients know about — and learn how to address — known health risks and side effects that can potentially arise from certain treatments.

    Working with Dana-Farber's Adult Survivorship Program, we help women address concerns that can be unique to breast cancer survivors, including:

    • Early menopause and menopausal symptoms
    • Arm lymphedema 
    • Sexual health and functioning
    • Issues related to body image, weight management and physical activity
    • Emotional and psychological concerns

    Learn more about survivorship services for adult patients.

    The Treatment Team

    Ann Partridge, MD, MPH, is the founder and director of the Program for Young Women with Breast Cancer.

    Dr. Partridge has published numerous manuscripts and lectures both nationally and internationally on issues of breast cancer survivorship, and young women with breast cancer in particular. She has received several awards and grants including a Champions in Change designation from the White House, an American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Improving Cancer Care Grant, LIVESTRONG Foundation Award, and Tracy Starr Breast Cancer Research Fund Award. She also serves as a Susan G. Komen for the Cure Scholar.

    See the full treatment team list for the Dana-Farber/Brigham Breast Cancer Treatment Center.

     

    Patient Resources

    Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center (DF/BWCC) provides a wide range of support programs and resources for young women with breast cancer. These programs and resources can help you and your family address issues that you may face as a result of your cancer, or its treatment. Below are some of our selected programs and services.

    Learn more about Dana-Farber's patient and family support services.

     

    Research

    The Program for Young Women with Breast Cancer brings together clinical researchers and scientists dedicated to improving our understanding of breast cancer in young women, including the biology of the disease, response to therapy, and psychosocial and survivorship concerns.

    As researchers continue to gather data and results from studies involving younger women, they hope to maintain a steady stream of new discoveries that will help uncover new details and answers to questions that often go unaddressed in younger patients with cancer.

    Through the process, clinicians and researchers are optimistic that this work may help develop more effective, personalized care, guiding more young women through the challenges of diagnosis, treatment, and long-term survivorship.

    Some of the studies conducted by Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center clinicians that are expanding our knowledge of young women with breast cancer include:

    Young Women and Fertility Issues

    An internet-based survey of 1,700 young breast cancer survivors from across the U.S. identified a need for better communication with young patients about fertility issues, as well as a need for research into treatments that preserve fertility among young breast cancer survivors. The study was reported in the Journal of Clinical Oncology (J Clin Oncol. 2004 Oct 15;22(20):4174-83).

    The Virtual Young Women's Initiative

    Ann Partridge, MD, MPH, received a three-year $1.35 million American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Cancer Foundation Improving Cancer Care Grant to expand the domain of the Program for Young Women with Breast Cancer into a national, virtual program called the Young and Strong Program.

    The virtual program will provide educational and support materials for young women with breast cancer and their providers. Materials and interventions will include a community website that helps patients and their doctors understand and address the concerns of young women. It will also offer patient materials such as booklets, videos, questions for the doctor, and resource links.

    The team plans to export the model of care in the Program for Young Women with Breast Cancer to community cancer settings and study the effect of the expanded program on fertility issues and other measures of quality of care, satisfaction, and quality of life.

    Helping Ourselves, Helping Others

    In 2006, Dr. Partridge launched the first multi-institutional cohort study of young women diagnosed with breast cancer. The Helping Ourselves, Helping Others study has already enrolled more than 900 young women. The researchers will follow these women for at least 10 years, banking blood and tissue for biological analyses to better understand the unique biology of breast cancer in young women, as well as tracking the medical and psychosocial issues these women face at diagnosis and throughout treatment. It is the largest and most comprehensive prospective cohort study focused on young women with breast cancer.

    Timing of Diagnosis

    Dr. Partridge is studying the differences in time frame of diagnosis. Based on data from the first 222 women who enrolled in the cohort study, researchers found that about 80 percent of the women detected a breast abnormality themselves and were promptly diagnosed.

    However, nearly 25 percent of the women delayed seeking medical attention for more than 30 days. Similarly, after seeking medical attention, 25 percent of the women experienced a delay in diagnosis of more than 30 days.

    Dr. Partridge presented the preliminary findings at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in May 2009. The researchers have subsequently compared the data to delays found among older women.

    Genetics of Breast Cancer in Young Women

    Dr. Partridge is also collaborating with Dr. Nikhil Wagle and scientists at the Broad Institute at MIT and Harvard to examine genetic changes in very young women using blood and tumor samples collected through the cohort. Through this work, the investigators are taking a comprehensive, whole genome approach to search for novel genetic markers, beyond BRCA 1 and BRCA 2, which might explain why some women develop breast cancer at a young age. The hope is to find potential targets for tailored prevention and treatment strategies based on these genetic changes to improve the care and outcomes of young women and their families in the future.

     

    Contact Us

    New patients

    If you have never been seen before at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center, please call 877-442-3324 or use this online form to make an appointment.

    Referring physicians: 617-632-2175  

    For all other inquiries, please call 617-632-3800.

    Fax: 617-632-3715  

    Mailing address

    Susan F. Smith Center for Women's Cancers
    Young Women with Breast Cancer Program
    Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
    450 Brookline Avenue
    Boston, MA 02215

     
     
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  • About the Program

    • Ann Patridge, MDDr. Ann Partridge discusses the physical and emotional challenges for young women with breast cancer.
      Watch the video
  • Young & Strong Newsletter

  • Where Medicine Meets Hope

    • screenshot from Where Medicine Meets Hope videoHear from one young woman, diagnosed with breast cancer at 21, who found new hope and a collaborative, compassionate doctor in Ann Partridge, MD.
      Watch the video
  • Tips for Tying a Headscarf

    • Kelley Tuthill tying a headscarfWatch WCVB TV reporter Kelley Tuthill, a breast cancer survivor treated at Dana- Farber, demonstrate three different ways to tie a headscarf.
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  • Choosing a Wig